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Representing violence in France 1760-1820

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Volume editor(s): 
Thomas Wynn
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About the Book

About the Book: 

Violence was an inescapable part of people’s daily lives in eighteenth-century France. The Revolution in general and the Terror in particular were marked by intense outbursts of political violence, whilst the abuse of wives, children and servants was still rife in the home. But the representation of violence in its myriad forms remains aesthetically troublesome.

Drawing on correspondence, pamphlets, novels and plays, authors analyse the portrayal of violence as a rational act, the basis of (re)written history, an expression of institutional power, and a challenge to morality. Contributions include explorations of:

• the use of the dream sequence in fiction to comprehend violence;

• how rhetoric can manipulate violent historical truth as documented by Burke in his Reflections on the Revolution in France;

• the political implications of commemorating the massacre at the Tuileries of 10 August 1792;

• how Sade’s graphic descriptions of violence placed the reader in a morally ambivalent position;

• the differing responses of individuals subjected to brutal incarceration at Vincennes and the Bastille;

• the constructive force of violence as a means of creating a sense of self.

Thomas Wynn, Introduction

I. Violence and the crisis of reason

John Dunkley, Gambling and violence: Loaisel de Tréogate as a neuroscientist?

Olivier Ritz, Metaphors of popular violence in the Revolutionary debate in the wake of Edmund Burke

Stéphanie Genand, Dreaming the Terror: the other stage of revolutionary violence

Pierre Saint-Amand, Gothic explosions: Révéroni Saint-Cyr’s Pauliska ou La Perversité moderne

II. Violence and the (re)writing of history

Catriona Seth, The ‘dix août’ (10 August 1792) in literary texts

Michèle Vallenthini, Violence in history and the rise of the historical novel: the case of the marquis de Sade

Yann Robert, The everlasting trials of Jean Calas: justice, theatre and trauma in the early years of the Revolution

Pierre Frantz, Violence in the theatre of the Revolution

III. Violence and institutions

Thomas Wynn, Violence, vulnerability and subjectivity in Sade

Odile Jaffré-Cook, The Bastille or the ‘Enfer de Dutailli de Saint-Pierre’

Ourida Mostefai, Violence, terrorism and the legacy of the Enlightenment: debates around Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Revolution

IV. Violence and morality

Malcolm Cook, Violence in the work of Bernardin de Saint-Pierre

Rebecca Sopchik, Violence and the monster: the Private lives of the duc d’Orléans

Jean-Christophe Abramovici, ‘Avec une telle violence que…’: Sade’s use of the term violence

Will McMorran, The sound of violence: listening to rape in Sade

Michel Delon, Violence in the novels of Charlotte [de] Bournon-Malarme






French studies

‘Most of the essays refract the question of violence through literary genres and authors: the roman noir, émigré literature, sentimental fiction, Revolutionary pamphlets, [along with] a consideration of gambling in fictional life-stories. [They] show how a distinctly literary sensibility permeates our grasp of past violence.’